The amazing shifts that you go through during a season are what makes college basketball exciting. And knowing what a crazy tournament it can be come March adds to that excitement, as you know your team only has to be “so” good to make a run. Butler certainly was not one of the 4 best teams, much less the 10 best teams in the country last year, but they had “enough” to make a run. Throughout this season, we have certainly had ups and downs, and our expectations for this team have shifted greatly. For instance:
Preseason (Ranked #8): SEC title, Sweet 16, Elite 8 with luck
After Maui (Ranked #11): SEC title, Sweet 16-Elite 8, Maybe Final 4 with luck
After UNC loss (Ranked #16): Likely SEC title, No better than Sweet 16
After UL win (Ranked #11): SEC title, Sweet 16 or Elite 8
After Alabama loss (Ranked #13): Maybe SEC title, Sweet 16
After Ole Miss loss (Ranked #11): Hoping for SEC Tourney Bye, 2nd round maybe Sweet 16
It has certainly been an up and down season, but as you can see we are certainly headed in the wrong direction for the expectations department over the last couple weeks. And with several difficult games left on the schedule, the season could certainly get worse, or the Cats could surprise us and jolt our expectations back up.
I will say that in the preseason, I thought this was an Elite 8 team, but a Sweet 16 was the worst that I would have accepted. Holding those same expectations, what would it take for this team to please me:
-Not losing a home game the rest of the year (Florida, Tennessee, Vandy, South Carolina, Mississippi State)
-Going 1-2 at worst against 3 SEC teams on the road
-Beating Arkansas on the road
-No loss over 10 points
-Sweet 16 with no loss to worse seeded team
Certainly, it’s impossible to be as positive about this team as we were on New Year’s Eve. It seems the team has hit a brick wall and stopped improving. But, those thinking this team is at threat to miss the tournament or are first round losers are just insane, in my opinion. This team still has Top 10 talent, but Bottom 10 toughness. This will likely prevent them from any type of deep run, but to ignore the talent on the floor, and the fact that no first round opponent will have more than Kentucky is absurd. Upsets happen, so I will not guarantee (cough cough Georgia) they will not get beat in the first round, but people who are PREDICTING that are not looking at the situation rationally.
So, what are you expectations for this team now, and what do the Cats have to do to reach those expectations to make you happy at the end of the season?